Spoilers: Narnia up to the end of Prince Caspian; Once begins in Season 1, but flashbacks may contain spoilers from any of the later seasons.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. I am not C.S. Lewis and I certainly did not create Once Upon a Time, not matter how wonderful the show may be.
AN: This is my first foray into the world of Once Upon a Time fanfiction, but hopefully not my last. I hope I do the series justice!
AN2: Flashbacks are in italics.
Chapter One: The Road Less Traveled
The threads of fate posed so many possibilities; each flashed before her eyes for the briefest of moments before disappearing like dust in the wind. But in each possibility she saw the sorrow and pain of her siblings and sought to correct it. There! She tugged on the strand and time stood still. This was the best possibility, the one with the least suffering. She knew now why Aslan had given her this gift. So many roads that could have ended tragically for the Royal Four, but this one—it was a long road and lightly traveled, but somehow Lucy knew that it was the one that they must follow. A small tug was all it took for her to alter their fate.
"Do we have any Lucky Charms left, Papa?" asked the brunette teenager, rummaging around in the near empty pantry.
"I don't know why you eat that crap, Lenore," said the middle-aged man, leaning heavily on his cane as he carried two bowls and two spoons to the small kitchen table.
"Oh, Papa, it's all about taste," Lenore said with a small laugh. "Besides that, I'm a teenager; I'm genetically pre-programmed to like sweet stuff." She finally found the near empty box of her favorite cereal hiding way in the back. "You want the Cheerios this morning or oatmeal squares?"
"Cheerios, please," the man said. He sat down heavily in the wooden kitchen chair and leaned his cane against the table.
"We need to go grocery shopping soon, Papa," said Lenore, shutting the pantry door with her bare foot. She set the two boxes on the table and stepped over to the shiny silver fridge to get the carton of milk. "Do you want a banana with your Cheerios? We've got a couple left."
"Only if you have some too, Lenore dear," he replied. "You know I hate it when you eat only that sugary crap before school."
Lenore laughed and set the milk and a banana on the table as she took her seat beside her Papa. "Split one instead?" she bargained.
"Oh very well," he said with a sigh. "I hope your lunch is healthier than this." He eyed her bowl with disgust as she poured the cereal jam-packed with colorful marshmallows into it.
"Today's taco day," she said with a cheeky grin.
"Of course it is," he said with a sigh. He reached over and picked up the Cheerios, pouring his bowl about half full. As Lenore poured milk into her cereal, he cut the banana in half. He set half in front of his daughter and the other half was cut up further and put into his bowl. "Shall we go to the market after you get out of school this afternoon?"
"Yes please," said Lenore, her spoon raised halfway to her mouth. "I don't know about you, but I can't eat spaghetti for one more night." Her Papa chuckled; such was a typical morning at the Gold house.
Tobias Gold had just turned forty-three when he met her. Tabitha Roland was a grad student at Boston College at the time. She was passionate, fiery, and wild and she had such big plans for her life. She was something of a classic beauty with her porcelain skin and raven curls, which framed her oval face and accentuated her eerie blue eyes. Men flocked to her like flies to honey and she loved it. One day she took pity on the crippled, middle-aged lawyer who had come to speak in her ethics class. She invited him to lunch at a cozy, off-campus diner that was frequented by the more serious-minded grad students and the rest was history.
He was hooked right from the start. She was everything he never knew he wanted in a woman and so much more. Unfortunately for him, she was above all else a gold-digger looking for some poor old sap to latch onto like a leech so that she could drain him dry. Once she had sunk her claws into Tobias, he was helpless to break free. He wasn't stupid; he noticed that she always wanted to go to the fanciest restaurants and that only the most expensive gifts would please her vain little heart, but he was simply so deeply infatuated with her that he didn't care.
Lenore had always preferred to walk to school, despite the distance. Her father, for the most part, indulged her, though he did insist on giving her a ride from their home into town. Most days Lenore allowed this, though on occasion she rose extra early just so that she could walk through the woods that stood between their old Victorian house and the town. Today she allowed her Papa to drive her to his shop before walking to school from there. As always, she paused in front of the old library, topped by a large clock that was stuck perpetually at 8:15. She waved to Archie and Pongo as they passed by on their morning walk and smiled shyly at the Mayor, who would occasionally smile back at her. Today was not one of those days.
She found out why when she arrived at school. She was greeted by her friend Paige Francis, a blonde girl four years below her. "Did you hear?" the younger girl said, tugging Lenore by the arm into Miss Blanchard's classroom. "Henry's missing!"
"What?" cried Lenore. Henry Mills was the same age as Paige and the three kids were thick as thieves. The two ten-year-olds were in Miss Blanchard's fourth-grade class together, but they always managed to find Lenore during lunch and at recess to spend time with the older girl. To hear that Henry was missing was jarring, to say the least. "What happened?"
Paige tugged Lenore, who was about the same size as her, into one of the desks in the back of the room. "No one really knows," she whispered. "Madam Mayor is frantic; I guess he didn't show up to therapy with Archie last night." It was one of the town's worst kept secrets that the mayor's son was in therapy. "She has Sheriff Graham running himself ragged trying to track him down."
"He didn't say anything to you?" asked Lenore.
Lenore shook her head, her chestnut waves falling into her face. "He's been oddly distant lately," she confessed. "He's been reading that fairy tale book Miss Blanchard gave him a lot."
"Has he told you his theory?" asked Paige, her dark brown eyes curious.
"Lenore, shouldn't you be headed to your own classroom?"
Lenore looked up at Miss Blanchard sheepishly. "Sorry, Miss Blanchard," she said. "Paige was just telling me about Henry."
Miss Blanchard's green eyes softened. "Yes, we all heard about that. Well, you know I don't mind you girls talking before class, but I also know that Mr. Peace doesn't like his students to be tardy."
"Of course, Miss Blanchard," said Lenore, picking up her yellow daisy-covered backpack from where she had dropped it by the door. "We'll talk more at lunch, Paige," she called back to her friend as she ventured into the last minute crush of students in the hallway rushing to beat the bell to class.
Tobias and Tabitha were married on a sunny Saturday afternoon in late June. Theirs was a whirlwind romance, full of fire and passion. But despite Tobias' best efforts it was snuffed out like a flame before it had a chance to grow. Three months into their marriage, Tabitha announced her pregnancy. Tobias had been so overjoyed at his impending fatherhood (something he was sure he would never get to experience so late in his life) that he failed to hear the disappointment in her voice as she gave him the news. He failed to see the slight frown that would become a permanent fixture on her otherwise perfect face in the months to come.
Tabitha gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl as March roared in like a lion. Friends and family alike were too polite to mention the young mother's cold disinterest in her child or the way that she would avoid holding her, as if she were afraid the child would pass on some disease simply by touching her skin. Tobias himself was too enraptured by this small being that he had helped to create, and that had been entrusted into his care, to notice anything beyond his precious baby girl.
"I think I saw Henry's birth mom today," said Paige, plopping herself down by their tree on the edge of the playground. It had always been their tree since…well, since longer than Lenore could remember.
"What makes you think that?" asked Lenore, idly braiding her chestnut hair into two plaits.
"Well, she came in to class today with Madam Mayor and they were asking Miss Blanchard about Henry. I kind of stayed behind to listen, and get this: Henry stole Miss Blanchard's credit card to find her!"
"He stole a teacher's credit card? I'm sure my Papa would have helped him if he'd asked."
Paige rolled her eyes. "You seem to think your papa runs around helping people, Len. I've told you a million times, people are afraid of him."
Lenore huffed and flipped her messy braids over her shoulders. "He's just misunderstood. He's really a big old softie at heart."
Paige laughed. "Yeah, and I'm the Queen of Hearts."
Lenore grinned. "Nah, I know you're too nice for that." She glanced around to see if they were alone. "We really should make sure Henry is okay," she said, her voice low.
"He's probably at the castle right now," said Paige. The girls looked at each other, stormy blue meeting loamy earth. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"I'm thinking my Papa's going to kill me for this, so probably not." Paige giggled. "Hey, you're lucky your parents are so laid back. Is anyone watching?"
Paige glanced around. "Nope, we're clear." The girls silently made their way to the bushes lining the fence and ducked behind them, finding the familiar child-sized hole in the chain link and passing their bags through. With one last glance to make sure no one was watching, they crawled through as well.
"We're getting too big for this," said Lenore, dusting her skirt off as she stood up.
Paige snorted. "Speak for yourself, Thumbelina."
Little Lenore Ariel Gold was only six months old when Tabitha left, disappearing from her daughter's life forever. Tobias knew that Tabitha had been unhappy and that she had not bonded with their daughter the way that he had (she had him wrapped around her tiny little finger and he was not ashamed to admit it), but he had no idea how long or how seriously she had been planning her departure until a week after she had left. He stepped out onto the front porch one morning and found a packet containing divorce papers with Tabitha's elegant signature already on them lying underneath the daily paper. Had she not already left, he would have lectured her about how one did not simply leave important documents lying out for anyone to come and take, but she was gone and there was nothing he could do about it.
Paige and Lenore ran all the way through town, down to the ocean where the castle lay, sitting just ahead of the shore line. As they approached, they finally slowed down to a walk. There was Henry, storybook and all, sitting on the castle with his brown hair blowing in the faint ocean breeze. Sitting beside him was a blonde woman whom Lenore had never seen before. She was wearing a red leather jacket and leaned close to Henry, intent on her conversation with the boy.
"That's the woman who showed up in the classroom today," Paige whispered to her.
Lenore had had enough. Never one for inaction or cowardice, she called out, "Henry!" and walked the last few steps to stand near his dangling feet. "We were worried! Where have you been?"
Henry looked down at her, smiling. "Sorry, Len," he said. "I was in Boston."
"What were you doing in Boston, Henry Daniel Mills?" she said, her blue-grey eyes narrowed and her hands on her hips. "We were all worried sick about you!"
"Is this her, then?" Paige asked, stepping up to join her brunette companion and eyeing the blue-eyed woman suspiciously. "Is she the reason you were in Boston?"
"Yeah, this is Emma," he said, smiling at the woman. "She's my birth mom."
"Well, it's nice to meet you, Miss Emma," said Lenore, climbing up the play castle to join them. "I'm Lenore."
"And I'm Paige," the blonde girl added, ignoring the ladder and climbing the sides of the wooden structure like a monkey.
"I was under the impression that Henry didn't have any friends," said Emma as Lenore plopped down beside her and Paige sat gracefully on Henry's other side.
"You're been talking to Regina, haven't you?" said Lenore.
"Madam Mayor doesn't like me," said Paige, slinging her arm around Henry's shoulders. "She thinks my parents have corrupted me with their 'immoral, hippie ways' and that I'm a bad influence on her precious son."
"And she usually prefers to pretend I simply don't exist," said Lenore, smiling at Henry. "She doesn't think it's natural that a thirteen-year-old girl would want to hang around a couple of ten-year-olds." She shrugged. "I say, what are a few years between friends? Age is just a number, after all."
"My mom likes to look for the worst in people," said Henry.
"And so she pretends you don't have any friends?" asked Emma, raising a delicate eyebrow. "That really doesn't make much sense, kid."
The boy shrugged. "I never said it did."
It had been two months since Tabitha's departure (taking with her a piece of Tobias' heart, all of his respect for her as a human being, and a sizable chunk of his personal fortune) and Tobias was already beyond sick of the empty condolences and not-so-subtle looks of pity sent his way by his so-called friends and colleagues. In a spur of the moment decision, he decided to move back to his childhood home in Maine with little Lenore. The small town would be the perfect place to raise his precious daughter and the inhabitants were all too scared of him and his family name (thank the Lord he'd had the sense to keep anything connected to his family's fortune far away from Tabitha) that they'd never dare to bother him or his precious little princess.
As Tobias drove across the town line, he glanced back at the wide eyed infant in the rear-view mirror. The tiny brunette was taking in the change of scenery through the windows as she contentedly sucked on her thumb. He smiled a rare, but genuine, smile full of love and affection as he snuck another glance at the blue-eyed baby that was his whole world.
"Welcome to Storybrooke, Lenore Ariel."
Lenore liked to tag along with her Papa when he collected rent. Although most everyone in Storybrooke was frightened of the man, they all adored his daughter. She followed behind her father every rent day with the loyalty and enthusiasm of a small puppy. No one could resist her charms, especially not her Papa. Most everyone always had a smile for her and some of the older ladies liked to ply her with cookies or candy. Her absolute favorite place to visit on rent day, however, was Granny's. Inn or Diner didn't matter because Granny had taken a shine to the small-for-her-age teenage girl and would always have some sort of treat and a kind word for her. Granny's treats were the best; homemade cookies, pies, cakes, brownies, candies…and her fudge, which was nothing short of heavenly.
When they arrived at Granny's Bed and Breakfast, Lenore was surprised at how quiet it was. Nearly every time they stopped by, Granny and Ruby were going at it like cats and dogs. This time there was nothing; not even quiet seventeen-year-old Tori Lucas, who liked to read her thick, leather-bound novels curled up in an armchair front of the fireplace in the small lobby of the inn. Instead, as Lenore and her father approached the small room that held the little-used check-in counter, she saw a vaguely familiar woman with long blonde hair talking with Granny.
"Now, what's the name?" Granny asked the woman.
"Swan. Emma Swan."
"What a lovely name," said Lenore's Papa, coming up behind Emma. A strange…something…passed through his eyes, but it was gone so quickly that Lenore let it be.
"It's all here," said Granny gruffly, handing Lenore's Papa a folded wad of cash.
"Of course it is dear," he said. "Enjoy your stay in Storybrooke, Miss Swan," he added. "Lenore?"
"I'll be along in a minute," she said, looking imploringly at Granny.
As always, her sweet face and innocent puppy eyes melted Granny's gruff exterior (she was really a big softie at heart). "I just finished making a batch of double chocolate chunk cookies," she told Lenore. "I'm sure Ruby won't mind taking you to get some."
Lenore turned her puppy eyes on the older girl whose dark brown hair held a multitude of bright red streaks. "C'mon kid," she said with a mischievous grin. "I know where Granny hides the good stuff."
Ruby led Lenore into the small kitchen of the inn, located just off of the back room used to store records and files. From there, she could still hear everything Emma and Granny said to each other. Lenore sat down on a wicker bar stool at the kitchen's island while Ruby pulled out a basket full of Granny's cookies. As the two girls sat down together and had their treat, they listened in (dropped their eves, as it were) on the ongoing conversation.
"Who were they?" asked Emma.
"That was Mr. Gold and his daughter. He owns this place."
"The inn?" asked Emma.
"No, the town," said Granny. "Welcome to Storybrooke."
Aslan gave her a gift as she hugged him goodbye. She breathed in his scent as he whispered in her ear words that would change her fate forever. She felt a warm tingling sensation spread through her from top to toe as his sweet breath tickled her ear. They drew apart, Lion and his truest believer, and as they parted their eyes locked. His amber eyes were so very old and sad, so full of wisdom and mystery. In that moment when their eyes locked, honeyed amber on stormy blue, as His gift settled within her, she saw a thousand different, fleeting possibilities. A noble ship on a treacherous sea; a fiery inferno and a mournful whistle; a battle axe dripping with blood in the midst of a field of carnage; a lonely imp with ageless eyes, a dark heart, and a sad secret.
"Thank you, Aslan," Lucy whispered, "but how shall I know what to follow?"
"Be the Valiant Queen I know you to be, my Lioness, and you shall know."
Lucy nodded and joined her siblings in front of the door in the air that Aslan had created to take them back to their world. She grabbed Peter and Edmund's hands tight in her own as Susan said her own goodbyes to Caspian, the new King of Narnia. The Royal Four were to go through Aslan's door first, thereby setting an example for the Telmarines who wanted to follow. Susan joined hands with Peter and the Pevensie siblings stepped through the door together.
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